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Marion Fellowship expands to fund two art projects
Thursday, June 18, 2015

Two artistic projects featuring environmental/conservation themes have been approved for funding by the Marion International Fellowship for the Visual and Performing Arts through Fredonia.

Eve Beglarian, a contemporary American composer, performer and audio producer, will create “Junk Into Joy: The Flower Man’s Vision,” the working title of a music-theatre piece inspired by Cleveland Turner and the visionary yard environment she created in Houston.

     Eve Beglarian
     Lynn Neuman
     Joshua Davis

The duo of Lynn Neuman, a choreographer, and Joshua Davis, a composer, will create “Toss,” a performance work that examines overconsumption and throwaway mentality found in today’s culture as well as the hazards that plastics represent to human health and the environment.

“This is the first time two project awards were granted,” said Ralph Blasting, dean of Fredonia’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, which administers the Marion International Fellowship, now in its third year. “We had a very strong pool of applications across the U.S. and Canada. These two proposals stood out because of their creative processes and their connections with communities.”

Established by Fredonia graduate Cathy Marion and her husband, Jesse, the fellowship supports artistic journeys that lead to new opportunities for collaborative artistic excellence. It was expanded for 2015-2016 to include artists affiliated with the six Marion Fellowship Circle member institutions: Chautauqua Institution; Ucross Foundation, of Clearmont, Wyo.; Alley Theatre, Houston; Alberta College of Art and Design, Calgary, Canada; Springboard Schools, Abu Sir, Giza, Egypt; and Fredonia.

“The Marions were so intrigued by the two top finalists, both which addressed environmental issues, that they graciously offered to fully fund both of them,” said Associate Director of Development June Miller-Spann, who worked closely with the Marions to design and set up the fellowship through the Fredonia College Foundation.

Miller-Spann noted that the Marions have always wanted to connect the arts and educational institutions they philanthropically support, and the fellowship does this in a very unique and creative way.

The 2015-2016 recipients, based in New York City and Selingsgrove, Pa., are all affiliated with the Ucross Foundation. Each project will receive $18,000 to complete the artistic journey through which the final project is developed.

Both artistic journeys will begin this summer at Chautauqua Institution, include a residency at Ucross Foundation and activities at an additional Circle member organization, and conclude with a presentation of the work or work-in-progress at Fredonia in October 2016.

For her project, Ms. Beglarian envisions a 20 to 30 minute piece that intersperses recorded interviews of Turner with newly composed songs and arias made from his words, as performed by a singer/actor and a live ensemble. These elements will be presented against a backdrop of video and photographs of the Flower Man’s house in its various incarnations.

“My plan for the Marion Fellowship is to make a piece of music-theatre inspired by the Flower Man’s decades-long work of improvisational performance art, his realization of his life-changing near-death vision in 1983,” Beglarian wrote in her grant application. In his final years, Turner brightened his urban neighborhood and the lives of visitors with his arrangements of colorful refuse. His house was demolished earlier this year by the city shortly after his death.

“I want to make a piece that will make Cleveland Turner’s transformative but evanescent artwork available to people who never got the chance to meet him or visit his marvelous house,” Beglarian explained. She will begin her journey during the “Vanishing” theme week at Chautauqua.

In “Toss,” Mr. Davis and Ms. Neuman will continue the multi-platform Human Mapping Project, which Neuman’s Artichoke Dance Company began in 2010 to explore environmental issues that impact urban dwellers. It will feature three collapsible set pieces made of recycled plastics that symbolize enormous patches or collections of floating debris found in oceans.

Their production, to feature live music created by Davis and solo dances by Neuman, will evolve by including audience participation from earlier presentations at Circle member locations. The Chautauqua theme weeks “Creating Healthy Communities” and “Art and Politics” are central to the project.

The “Toss” soundscape challenges convention in musical performance by incorporating unique spoken words offered by audience members. “At each location and prior to each presentation we will pose questions to community and audience members and record their answers,” the artists explained in their grant application. Questions posed at each presentation challenge notions of consumption and waste.

Audience responses will be positioned into the sound score, looped and layered with the existing music tracks and become part of future presentations. “Involving community in the collection and construction allows them to reflect on their own consumptive behavior, witness how their behavior is compounded within their community and re-envision their waste, as well as connects them to our work,” the duo stated.

“The goal of our work is to not only raise awareness about these issues, but to initiate change in people’s behavior and choice making and ultimately to eliminate the use of single-use plastics.”

Previous recipients of Marion Fellowships are Elizabeth Lee and Jason Dilworth, faculty members of the Department of Visual Arts and New Media at Fredonia. Mr. Dilworth will present the results of his journey at Fredonia during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 22 to 23.

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